by Rena Klingenberg.
Wire can make stunning beads.
In this tutorial we’ll wrap wire around a knitting needle or dowel to create a focal bead – and then embellish it with seed beads.
Just one of these wire beads, strung on a cord or chain, makes a striking necklace.
- Seed beads – size 6/0 or 8/0.
Make sure the beads fit on your wire.
I used 11 of these 8/0 beads (you might use more or fewer beads):
- Sturdy mandrel with a diameter of about 3mm to 4mm, to wind your wire around – you might use a size 4 knitting needle, or thin wooden dowel, or a chopstick, or good-sized round nail, or similar item.
A mandrel of this size will make a focal bead that can be strung on most cords and also many chains.
I used my grandmother’s size 4 knitting needle:
- Craft wire / Artistic wire – 20 or 22 gauge.
I used 20 gauge Artistic wire in gunmetal color:
- Wire cutter.
- Round nose pliers.
How to Make a
Wire Focal Bead
Before we get started, here’s a handy hint.
If you find it difficult or uncomfortable to hold onto your wire that’s been wrapped around your mandrel, try this.
Cut a small square of rubberized, non-skid shelf liner, and fold it over your wirework:
The shelf liner grips the wire easily, and also provides a bit of a cushion between the wire and your fingers.
As your wire bead grows, move the position of the shelf liner as needed.
(And be careful not to wire-wrap it to your bead! 🙂 )
Now let’s get started wrapping the wire around your knitting needle, dowel, or other mandrel.
We don’t know exactly how much wire we’ll be using to create this bead.
So instead of cutting a piece of wire, we’ll use the wire directly from its spool.
Lay the end of your wire across your mandrel, and hold it in place with your thumb:
Now we’ll make the first layer of wire wraps.
This layer of wraps will create the bead’s hole, which we want to be smooth and even.
So we’ll start wrapping the wire around the mandrel with nice, tight, even wraps.
Hot Tip: You’ll make the best wraps by pulling the wire taut as you wind it around the mandrel. Don’t push the wire around the mandrel; instead, pull the wire firmly and wind it tightly:
Keep making your nice tight wraps:
. . . until they’re somewhere around 2 to 2.5cm (0.75″ to 1.0″) long:
Now that the first row is done, we don’t have to be quite so neat and even with our wraps for the rest of this project.
From here on out, the wraps don’t have to be tightly together, and it’s okay to make interestingly messy wraps, or slanted wraps, or however you feel like wrapping!
Also, since we’re making a bead that’s widest in the middle and tapered at the ends, each row of wire wraps will begin and end a little farther in from the previous row’s ends.
Now we’ll make the second row of wraps, right on top of the first row of wraps.
So start in a little way from the end of the first row of wire wraps, and begin wrapping back over the top of the first row with your messy wraps:
. . . and keep going:
. . . and stop wrapping a little way before you get to the end of the first row of wire wraps:
Now let’s wrap row 3 on top of row 2, beginning and ending a little farther in from row 2’s ends:
Now let’s wrap row 4 on top of row 3, beginning and ending a little farther in from row 3’s ends:
Now let’s wrap row 5 on top of row 4, beginning and ending a little farther in from row 4’s ends:
Now we’re ready for row 6 (the final row of wraps) and adding the seed beads.
It’s time to cut the wire from its spool.
Measure a long tail of wire, about 8″-12″ (20cm – 30cm) from your last wire wrap, and cut the wire there:
Now string one of your seed beads onto the long wire tail:
. . . and start wrapping the long wire tail to make row 6:
String a second seed bead onto your long wire tail, and continue to wrap the wire tail for row 6:
Keep adding beads and wraps till you finish row 6:
Now use your wire cutter to trim off the remaining end of the long tail of wire that’s left over at the end of row 6:
Then use your wire cutter to trim of the remaining short tail of wire that’s left over from where you started row 1:
Use your round nose pliers to curve and tuck the wire ends into the nearby messy wraps of your wirework.
Now your wire focal bead is finished!
And because of your tight wire wraps on the first row, your wire focal bead has a smooth, sturdy hole structure that will make stringing easy:
And the hole is large enough to accommodate cords up to 3 to 4mm size, as well as many chains and other stringing materials. (I think these beads look smashing on satin cord!)
Your finished wire focal bead should look something like this:
Want to Learn the Basics of
Designing Your Own Wire Jewelry?
In my Design and Make Artistic Jewelry Components video class, you’ll learn how to get great ideas for wire jewelry designs – and then follow my easy system for turning those ideas into successful pieces of jewelry.
By the end of this online video class, you’ll be designing and making your own artistic earwires, clasps, connectors, and pendant bails.
You’ll also learn my tips for making wire jewelry more easily, with more professional looking results.